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The Jazz Singer
1927 was a monumental year for the motion picture industry. It was during this year that the first film to incorporate spoken dialogue appeared, forever changing the landscape for future films. The ‘fad’ of ‘talkies’ would quickly make silent films obsolete, and the latter would become a forgotten art; whereas the ‘talkie’ spectacle has grown to the phenomenal proportions that exist today.
Final Fantasy X is far from the first videogame, or RPG, to incorporate spoken dialogue. However it is the first Final Fantasy title to do so, and for many this name is synonymous with RPG’s themselves. For this series to ‘approve’—for lack of a better term—a convention signifies the introduction of a standard that must be perpetuated throughout the genre. In other words, ‘talkies’ are in, and they are the way to go. This change represents the biggest revolution in the series since the seventh installment; and establishes a bold new direction for the franchise.
To list all of the innovations present in Final Fantasy X, as it pertains to the series and RPG’s in general, is not the purpose of this review. Part of the reason this particular series has lasted so long anyways is because of its elastic capacity to evolve into different forms of _expression at different times. No, the purpose of this review is not only to present Final Fantasy X as a wonderful videogame, but also to recognize and appraise it as a masterful work of art.
This is firstly evinced with the story—a pilgrimage to defeat an entity known only as Sin—which presents itself layer upon layer in beautiful, gripping, and (best of all) timely fashion. The only time the game seems to rush is towards the end (which is where the game falls apart slightly…not too bad, but the pacing is thrown off), and this leads to what can be a lackluster ending (if you don’t understand it, or wanted an old-school, bombastic finale). Barring this albeit trifle flaw however, the story is the tightest one in the series. As a result to this cohesion, this is the most non-linear entry in the entire series. There is almost no backtracking until the end, and the airship and world map functions have been minimized (no roaming the overworld onback a chocobo!).
Along with the story, the characters are presented and developed with highly dramatic precision. Of special note is the protagonist Tidus, whose initial annoyance is eventually replaced with awe at his moving performance. The rest of the cast is also well represented, and I’m glad to see that all of the characters in this game have a purpose, and are not just stuck in for polygonal variety (*cough* Quistis and Selphie *cough*). The only real problem in the character department is with the voices; well only two—the two lead parts! It’s a shame of sorts that Tidus’ and Yuna’s voice acting is not consistently on par with the others (especially Yuna’s); and especially since they do the bulk of the talking. All in all, though, this is one of the most memorable casts you will ever get acquainted with, Final Fantasy or otherwise.
To finish up on the aural facet of the game, the soundtrack is once again wonderful and highly cinematic in scope, and shows Uematsu climbing back to top form. Well, Uematsu along with the help of Square composers Hiroshi Yamauzu and Junya Nakano, who both together composed roughly half of the soundtrack. With this in mind it is easy to see why this is the most diverse soundtrack in the series, with enchanting choral numbers to eclectic piano arrangements, and even a hard rock song! The slight lag that seemed to exude on the last soundtrack has seemed to disappear, and that my friends is a very, very good thing.
For the first time in the series since Final Fantasy III, a system other than the Active Time Battle is utilized. The replacement, dubbed the Condition Time Battle, finds an effective and comfortable medium between turn based and ATB battles, and is a breath of fresh air for the series. A new system of leveling up has also been conceived (what two Final Fantasy games have had the exact same system of leveling up?): the Sphere Grid. Gone are traditional levels—characters now move along a board learning abilities and stat boosts. Like the battle system, this method finds an effective medium between the classic ‘every character learns different things’ approach and the newfangled character customization.
Most reviews of games begin with a look at graphics, mainly because they are the initial medium of the videogame experience that the player responds to. This particular review did not, but I will take the time right now to state that the graphics to this game are wonderful. Tetsuya Nomura reprises his role as character designer after a brief one-game hiatus (Final Fantasy IX, for those who don’t know, saw the return of the venerable Yoshitaka Amano, who filled this role for the classic pre-Sony games), and once again astounds with his obtuse penchant for apparel and accessories. Final Fantasy X eschews the classic Medieval Europe settings of its predecessor in favor of a world readily inspired by southern Japan and Southeast Asia. The most amazing thing about the graphics, however, is that more than two years later they still hold up to some of the best on the system.
Final Fantasy X serves as a step in a new direction, without looking back; indeed, this game has as much in common with even recent installments as apples have with oranges. For those card-carrying Final Fantasy stalwarts, this is not a bad thing. Besides, apples and oranges are both fruits, so this game does have things in common with its lineage. But for the most part it is apparent that the creators were looking to revolutionize not only the series but the genre with this installment; much like The Jazz Singer’s arrival forever changed the outlook of its industry.
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